MP for Barrow reacts to backlash over sewage discharge at Walney

THE MP for Barrow has responded to outraged claims he voted in favor of a rule change allowing sewage to be discharged at Walney.

Pollution warnings have been issued for three different areas in Walney after heavy rain led to sewage overflows flowing into various areas.

According to a map, created by environmental campaign group, Surfers Against Sewage (SAS), Walney West Shore, Walney Biggar Bank and Walney Sandy Gap all have a ‘pollution risk warning’ indicating that storm sewage has overflowed in the place in the past 48 hours.

Currently, waste can be washed out of the sewage system and into the country’s rivers and coastal waters during heavy rains to prevent sewage from flowing back into people’s homes.

READ MORE: Interactive map shows sewage discharged near Cumbria beaches in past 48 hours

A vote last October on Amendment 45 to the Environment Bill would have required ministers to work to reduce the number of ‘storm overflow spills’.

The majority of the amendment passed, however, it was slightly modified, removing the requirement for sewage treatment companies to “take all reasonable steps to ensure that untreated sewage is not discharged by storm overflows” and to “demonstrate improvements to sewer systems.

The vote to change the wording of the amendment passed 268 to 204. All votes to change it came from Tory MPs, including Barrow and Furness MP Simon Fell.

At the time, ministers argued that modifying the sewage system to prevent all discharges would cost up to £660billion.

However, Green MP Caroline Lucas said the change to the amendment took “the teeth out” of her.

READ MORE: Pollution warnings in Barrow as heavy rain leads to sewage overflows

Barrow and Furness Labor expressed outrage online, writing: “There are pollution warnings in effect for three different areas in Walney because sewage has been discharged.

“Simon Fell voted for the rule change that made this possible.

“This is unacceptable. It shows complete disregard for the community he claims to represent.

Mr Fell said the amendment would have cost the taxpayer tens of thousands of pounds each, which he called “unrealistic”.

The MP for Barrow said he had urged ministers to be ‘tougher’ with water companies and the regulator over the sewage issues off the Walney coast.

He said: ‘The amendment would have required the government to commit to spending hundreds of billions of dollars to replace our entire Victorian sewage systems – in effect individual taxpayers with a bill in the tens of thousands books each.

“This is clearly not a realistic path and so we have instead agreed to take measured and methodical steps to improve water quality. Indeed, the irony is that the Environment Bill has dramatically improved the way we monitor and crack down on water quality violations, and requires water companies to invest in updating their systems.

“The UK has the seventh cleanest water in Europe, ahead of France, Spain, Italy and Germany, and we need to keep it that way.

“The recent dumps are just awful and I think we need stronger, more responsive regulation, but we can’t just walk out of the way – it’s a problem we all face, in effect Brussels recently went so far as to ask people not to flush the toilet when it rains for this reason!

“I spoke to ministers about what happened off our coasts and urged them to be tougher on the water companies and the regulator – I’m also alerting them to people’s anger.”

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